A Woman's Rage

A couple of weeks ago, a man I know over the internet posted his personal cell phone number on Facebook. He wrote an invitation to the women he knows, saying that he was going to keep his phone by him, and that any woman could call to leave a voicemail, and he would listen to it. He said that any woman who called was welcome to scream, to rage, to curse, and to take out their anger on his voicemail, and that he was willing to hold it for them.

“That’s so nice,” I thought, as I left the “love” reaction on his post and scrolled on.

I didn’t think about it again until a few days ago. Until a few days ago after everything on the internet seemed to catch fire with the stories of untold thousands of women who have been sexually assaulted, and the untold numbers of men who have decided to voice their disbelief.

Even nice men have been saying things like, “don’t get so emotional,” “think about this rationally,” and “do you really think it could be as bad as all that?”

And that carefully concealed rage within me began to boil.

I think most women have a secret rage inside of them, whether because of their own story of sexual assault or the stories of dozens of others that they have encountered along the way. We all hold a kind of vicious cancer of unspoken fury deep within, buried under niceties and tenderness and putting the needs of others above our own desperate need to be heard. We know the truths we keep so silent are too much, too honest, too graphic and too damning.

These stories of ours, these lives we live, are too damning of the status quo to ever be really heard.

And those truths don’t even begin to touch on the deeper, more insidious ways that this cancer eats at the lives of nonwhite women, of LGBT+ women and femmes, of disabled women and Muslim women and Native women.

This current rage doesn’t even begin to touch on the truths of countless, countless children whose lives have been utterly wrecked by men who decided that grown women were not weak enough to prey on; no, they needed something more vulnerable than the woman in the dark alley who made the mistake of letting them buy her a drink. These are no mere carnivores - they’re ravenous vultures.

As this rage began to boil inside my soul I wished I could tear open my ribcage and show the truth of my fury to every person who has ever accused me of “man hating.” Because in these moments of blinding anger all I want to do is scream, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

You ain’t seen nothing yet.

My anger burns white-hot over every single woman who has ever told me the story of her rape. Some women have had tears in their eyes as they’ve told me, in hushed tones and vague phrases, about what happened to them. Others have stared me down, daring me to enter into the uncharted waters of their pain. Still others have told me flatly, clinically, the facts and figures of their assault.

And every single time, it has rent my heart in two. But the thing about being a woman is that under the weight of other women’s pain, you don’t crumble. You don’t break. Instead, you bear up under the pain and hoist it onto your shoulders like the physical burden that it is. You groan in solidarity with the woman who has been holding this weight by herself for so long, and you feel lucky to get to share it with her now.

This is the truth of our lives and for some God-forsaken reason I still have to take a moment in the middle of my rage to tell you that I don’t hate men. And to be very clear, I don’t. I’m married to one. I have brothers that I love, male friends, two brothers-in-law and a father-in-law and a grandfather-in-law that I love. I had a grandfather that I loved and who loved me. And all of the anger in the world could never negate that love.

Neither does that love negate the bitter indignation that I hold in my soul for every woman who has ever told me about how a man violated her sacred body.

A few days ago, I went back to Facebook and found that phone number. I called it, expecting to scream and cry and rage into the phone. But all that came out was a whisper. A couple of stifled sobs. “I know it will get better, but it doesn’t look like it right now.”

I expected to be able to translate the burning coals in my chest into something that looks like rage on the outside. But it breaks me. On the way out of my body the fury changes into heaving sobs and hot tears and choked-out half-sentences. My single body can’t hold it: these centuries of pain, these thousands of stories, these millions of silent screams. These silenced screams.

It feels like death to hold it all. It feels like a slow and quiet dying. It feels like being a cage, because I know now that this is the definition of groanings that cannot be uttered. I can’t utter them. I can’t begin to utter them all. Yet it remains a privilege to be the cage that holds them.

This is a woman’s rage. A quiet, roaring, soft, ferocious, gnawing, snarling rage.

Maybe I can’t utter it. But I believe that someone - many someones - can. They’re coming. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

This piece was written in the days following Supreme Court Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States of America, in October 2018. It was published in March 2019.